Foreign students flock to Seoul, shunning provincial universities

By Park Sae-jin Posted : June 24, 2024, 14:10 Updated : June 24, 2024, 15:56
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SEOUL, June 24 (AJU PRESS) - Foreign students are increasingly choosing Seoul and surrounding areas for their studies in Korea, according to a report released by the Korean Council for University Education (KCUE) on Monday. The influx is further exacerbating the country's ongoing issue of urban concentration, with nearly half of the population now residing in the capital region.

According to the Bank of Korea, more than 40 percent of Korea's population lives in the Seoul metropolitan area, largely driven by young people aged between 15 and 34. They account for a whopping 78.5 percent of the population growth in the area from 2015 to 2021.

The trend is similar for foreign students seeking university education in Korea. The report showed that there were a total of 181,842 foreign students here as of 2023, with 59 percent of them enrolled in universities in the Seoul metropolitan area.

Hanyang University, with two campuses -- one near central Seoul and the other in the southwestern satellite city of Ansan -- had the largest number of foreign students with 6,612. Kyunghee University, with its main campus close to the heart of the capital, had the second-largest international students with 6,395. The next was followed by Sungkyunkwan University with 5,472, Yonsei University with 4,965 and Chungang University with 4,480.

The majority of them were from China at 58,062, accounting for 32 percent, followed by Viet Nam (20 percent), Mongolia (9,738), and Japan (5,701).

In response to the declining young population, the government launched a so-called "Study Korea" program in 2008 to attract foreign students to Korea. Initially aimed at bringing 50,000 students by 2010, the program has proven successful and now aims to attract 300,000 students by the end of 2027.

Despite hopes of revitalizing provincial areas by filling gaps in local universities facing potential closures due to low student enrollment, foreign students are opting universities in the Seoul metropolitan area.

"To address regional disparities, the government should come up with scholarships and other initiatives to encourage outstanding foreign students to consider universities outside of Seoul," KCUE's senior researcher Oh Ye-jin said in a statement.
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